A few days ago, I officially joined the ranks of Senior Citizenship (although Debra would say I joined quite some time ago). To help commemorate and celebrate the occasion, Debra surprised me by commissioning a special painting to be done by Laurent Lafleur, an artist who's work we've admired for a long time. He has a studio in La Malbaie, a small quaint village in the Charlevoix area. For those who don't know, Charlevoix is a beautiful region in Eastern Quebec, not far from New Brunswick, on the north coast of the St. Lawrence Seaway. It has some of the highest mountains (not as high as the Rockies) in the Canadian shield and as such, the area offers dramatic scenery. Because of the natural landscape, it has attracted, for many years, Artists from all over the world. For those who have heard of the "Group of Seven", many of it's members spent time in Charlevoix back in the early 20th century, honing their skill. (The Group of Seven were Canadian Artist, such as Tommy Thompson, Lauren Harris, A.Y Jackson etc. who's works now sell for millions of dollars)
The painting wasn't ready for my birthday on May 14th (you can't
Le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie
Beautiful golf course attached to this heritage Hotel
rush creativity), so Debra planned a "road trip" to Charlevoix to pick it up at Laurent's studios. We stayed a couple of days in La Malbae at a beautifully located Bed and Breakfast. The Auberge des eaux Vives, overlooks the St. Lawrence river and was very comfortable with a #1 rating on Trip Advisor.
About 50 km West of La Malbake is Baie-St-Paul which, in our opinion, is the artistic Center of Canada. The Town is reputed to have the highest concentation of Art Galleries of anywhere in the Canada and is truly representative of the founding cultures of Canada, French and English (although there wasn't much Aboriginal art offered) . The creativity and quality of art in this area is outstanding and for anyone who has an interest in this field, Charlevoix is the place to go. Of course, with the high level of French influence, the food and accommodations are "first rate", so it made for an all around, great travel experience. This has been our 3rd visit to the area, and each time, we will definitely return.
Our next stop on the way back home is Montreal, in which visiting is always a treat. We
stayed downtown at the Courtyard Hotel by Marriott which is very central and on the edge of Old Montreal. Of course the highlight of the trip was a visit to Schwartz's Deli for a smoked meat sandwhich. It hasn't changed much in 40 years, still a long line up to get in. We sat at the lunch counter, had the traditional smoked meat and left within 20 minutes. The lady beside us was drinking a Cherry Cola which is also one of their trade marks. Montreal has always been a cultural wonderland for Canadians and this trip just reinforced,for me, how different a City it is to any other in Canada. For the first time, we visited the Latin Quarter after a wonderful Japanese meal at KYO restaurant which is very close to the famous Montreal Basilica (Celine Dion was married there, Pierre Trudeau's funeral was held there etc,etc,) The Latin neighbourhood is a cultural melting pot with an eclectic array of restaurants, bars shops etc. A new experience for us was capping off the evening in a Turkish Cafe, having a Cuban cigar surrounded by mostly young couples, drinking tea or coffee and smoking a Hookah (Turkish water pipe).
The staff at Gitana Cafe were very friendly and gave us a good overview of the use of the Hookah (I didn't try it but now have it on my bucket list)
It was a great mini vacation and a fitting way to begin life as a Senior Citizen!! Back to normal retirement in Niagara on the Lake.
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